“Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.” – Will Rogers
Luck plays a vital role in wealth creation, whether you want to believe it or not. No one is disputing the role of hard work and personal grit; the point being these qualities can be overshadowed by random events.
Would Warren Buffet have become a mega-billionaire if he had been raised in the Sudan during a civil war and horrendous famine?
Could Mark Zuckerberg have gone to Harvard if he had been born to a poor single mother somewhere in Appalachia?
Would Donald Trump have become a real estate mogul and elected president of our country if he was not bankrolled by his Dad?
These are fair questions that are not meant to take anything away from the enormous successes of these individuals.
Nobody can dispute the fact that being born in the United States of America (to a financially well-off family) instead of a war-ravaged, impoverished third world nation is the equivalent of winning the geographical lottery.
While good fortune can turbo-charge wealth creation, what about the reverse?
Many people say the poor should be blamed for their miserable plight. Irresponsible behavior and awful decision-making are the main culprits for their squalid living conditions.
Let’s just say, for a moment, that these unempathetic beliefs are true. While adults can be blamed for the consequences of their behavior, what about their children?
It is an indisputable fact that children born into poverty have been dealt a pretty crappy hand in the game of life.
Let’s look at some statistics:
- Affluent mothers are more likely to get prenatal care and current medical advice.
- Many poor mothers-to-be contact a medical professional only in the last month of their pregnancy.
- Rich babies are born healthier and weighing more than poor ones.
- Poor babies are more likely to have poisonous lead in their bodies and environment.
- Rich babies get more verbal action with their parents and have much higher quality day care.
When it comes to schooling, the gap enlarges:
- Poor children are taught in class sizes fifty percent larger than the affluent.
- Poor students are much more likely to drop out of school than the rich.
- Affluent suburban schools offer many more programs in the arts and athletics than those in poor communities.
As far as college is concerned, the chasm widens further. The SAT should be classified as a “wealth test.” Children of the more affluent often have private tutors, college application consultants and ghost writers for entrance essays.
Pointing out the powerful role of luck in being born into an affluent family is not meant to be an attack on the upper class.
Awareness of the role of luck in both wealth creation and social class is an invaluable lesson for all of us.
Nothing tends to deflate a pompous ego more than pointing out the role that luck plays in any successful individual’s life. This dose of reality can be very beneficial for a wealthy individual. Hubris often leads to a great fall.
Pointing out the role of chance helps to put things into proper perspective. More importantly it lets the vital character traits for true happiness to blossom: empathy and gratitude.
Accepting the fact that good or bad fortune can have an over-sized influence upon a person’s life can help to heal our divided nation. These emotions can be a powerful antidote to the current divisiveness that our country has seen far too much of.
Castigating people for being rich or poor tends to bring everybody down.
Accepting the fact that we might not have as much control over our own destiny is a liberating experience.
Gratitude and empathy are far better choices than selfishness and judgment.
We would all be wise to heed the words of my colleague, Barry Ritholtz, when he stated: “The value of chance, serendipity, good fortune is far larger than we imagine; randomness is a much bigger part of our lives than we care to admit.”
Remember this the next time you become too full of yourself.
Source: Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, by James W. Loewen